There is now talk about a corporate average fuel economy standard of 62 mpg by the 2025 model year.
After decades of indecision in Washington, politicians have decided that this is a priority. With the price of gasoline rising, it is good to become an advocate of anything that improves fuel economy -- anything, that is, except putting a bigger tax on gasoline.
Lawmakers learned long ago that putting a sizable tax on fuel would be the shortest way to end a political career.
Now would be a good time to add a tax on fuel. Don't put it on top of what we have; just figure out how to make the cost of fuel constant at, say, $4 a gallon.
If the price stays at $4 or rises, no tax. If the price drops, the variable tax would kick in and keep the price of fuel at exactly $4 a gallon. There would be price predictability and stability in the marketplace.
But if someone decided that we had to have a CAFE of 50 mpg in just a few years, the automobile industry could do it. The price of cars would rise precipitously and consumer choice would just about disappear, but it could be done.
None of us would want to be around when the customers started to yell.
If you spend enough money and don't worry about the price when you're finished, just about anything is possible.
I remember when the famous experimental safety car was built during Joan Claybrook's time as administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It had a lot of great ideas that later showed up in production cars. But if you had tried to put that safety car into production, the price would have been prohibitive.
A 62-mpg car would be the same. If you build it, they won't come, and a lot of investment will be wasted.
There is nothing wrong with putting a ceiling and a floor on the price of fuel.
There is also nothing wrong with the federal government contracting to build research vehicles that have the right internal specifications and get 62 mpg. Then let the entire industry share in whatever was learned by the exercise.
But the industry doesn't have the time or the money to go after a moon landing.